Market structure

Last updated


Market structure has historically emerged in two separate types of discussions in economics, that of Adam Smith on the one hand, and that of Karl Marx on the other hand. Adam Smith in his writing on economics stressed the importance of laissez-faire principles outlining the operation of the market in the absence of dominant political mechanisms of control, while Karl Marx discussed the working of the market in the presence of a controlled economy[ citation needed ], sometimes referred to as a command economy in the literature. Both types of market structure have been in historical evidence throughout the twentieth century and twenty-first century.

Adam Smith 18th-century Scottish moral philosopher and political economist

Adam Smith was a Scottish economist, philosopher and author as well as a moral philosopher, a pioneer of political economy and a key figure during the Scottish Enlightenment, also known as ''The Father of Economics'' or ''The Father of Capitalism''. Smith wrote two classic works, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776). The latter, often abbreviated as The Wealth of Nations, is considered his magnum opus and the first modern work of economics. In his work, Adam Smith introduced his theory of absolute advantage.

Karl Marx German philosopher, economist, historian, sociologist, political theorist and journalist

Karl Marx was a German philosopher, economist, historian, sociologist, political theorist, journalist and socialist revolutionary.

Laissez-faire is an economic system in which transactions between private parties are free from any form of government intervention such as regulation, privileges, imperialism, tariffs and subsidies. Proponents of laissez faire argue for a complete separation of government from the economic sector. The phrase laissez-faire is part of a larger French phrase and literally translates to 'let [it/them] do'; however, in this context, the phrase usually means 'let go'.



The discussion of market structure in free economies as described by Adam Smith is often qualified or discussed in terms of patterns of market organization which serve the buyers and sellers in any particular form of the marketplace. Some types of market structure may be described using several recurrent types of descriptive organizational mechanism which may or may not dominate any particular market over time or at particular points in time, such as;

Monopolistic competition Imperfect competition of differentiated products that are not perfect substitutes

Monopolistic competition is a type of imperfect competition such that many producers sell products that are differentiated from one another and hence are not perfect substitutes. In monopolistic competition, a firm takes the prices charged by its rivals as given and ignores the impact of its own prices on the prices of other firms. In the presence of coercive government, monopolistic competition will fall into government-granted monopoly. Unlike perfect competition, the firm maintains spare capacity. Models of monopolistic competition are often used to model industries. Textbook examples of industries with market structures similar to monopolistic competition include restaurants, cereal, clothing, shoes, and service industries in large cities. The "founding father" of the theory of monopolistic competition is Edward Hastings Chamberlin, who wrote a pioneering book on the subject, Theory of Monopolistic Competition (1933). Joan Robinson published a book The Economics of Imperfect Competition with a comparable theme of distinguishing perfect from imperfect competition.

A duopoly is a type of oligopoly where two firms have dominant or exclusive control over a market. It is the most commonly studied form of oligopoly due to its simplicity. Duopolies sell to consumers in a competitive market where the choice of an individual consumer can not affect the firm. The defining characteristic of both duopolies and oligopolies is that decisions made by sellers are dependent on each other.

In economics, a monopsony is a market structure in which a single buyer substantially controls the market as the major purchaser of goods and services offered by many would-be sellers. In the microeconomic theory of monopsony, a single entity is assumed to have market power over sellers as the only purchaser of a good or service, much in the same manner that a monopolist can influence the price for its buyers in a monopoly, in which only one seller faces many buyers.

Elements and concerns

The imperfectly competitive structure is quite identical to the realistic market conditions where some monopolistic competitors, monopolists, oligopolists, and duopolists exist and dominate the market conditions. The elements of Market Structure include the number and size distribution of firms, entry conditions, and the extent of differentiation.

Monopoly Market structure with a single firm dominating the market

A monopoly exists when a specific person or enterprise is the only supplier of a particular commodity. This contrasts with a monopsony which relates to a single entity's control of a market to purchase a good or service, and with oligopoly which consists of a few sellers dominating a market. Monopolies are thus characterized by a lack of economic competition to produce the good or service, a lack of viable substitute goods, and the possibility of a high monopoly price well above the seller's marginal cost that leads to a high monopoly profit. The verb monopolise or monopolize refers to the process by which a company gains the ability to raise prices or exclude competitors. In economics, a monopoly is a single seller. In law, a monopoly is a business entity that has significant market power, that is, the power to charge overly high prices. Although monopolies may be big businesses, size is not a characteristic of a monopoly. A small business may still have the power to raise prices in a small industry.

An oligopoly (ολιγοπώλιο) is a market form wherein a market or industry is dominated by a small number of large sellers (oligopolists). Oligopolies can result from various forms of collusion which reduce competition and lead to higher prices for consumers. Oligopolies have their own market structure.

These somewhat abstract concerns tend to determine some but not all details of a specific concrete market system where buyers and sellers actually meet and commit to trade. Competition is useful because it reveals actual customer demand and induces the seller (operator) to provide service quality levels and price levels that buyers (customers) want, typically subject to the seller's financial need to cover its costs. In other words, competition can align the seller's interests with the buyer's interests and can cause the seller to reveal his true costs and other private information. In the absence of perfect competition, three basic approaches can be adopted to deal with problems related to the control of market power and an asymmetry between the government and the operator with respect to objectives and information: (a) subjecting the operator to competitive pressures, (b) gathering information on the operator and the market, and (c) applying incentive regulation. [2]

A market system is any systematic process enabling many market players to bid and ask: helping bidders and sellers interact and make deals. It is not just the price mechanism but the entire system of regulation, qualification, credentials, reputations and clearing that surrounds that mechanism and makes it operate in a social context. Some authors use the term "market system" to refer to specifically to the free market system. This article focuses on the more general sense of the term according to which there are a variety of different market systems.

Trade Exchange of goods and services.

Trade involves the transfer of goods or services from one person or entity to another, often in exchange for money. A system or network that allows trade is called a market.

Quick Reference to Basic Market Structures
Market StructureSeller Entry BarriersSeller NumberBuyer Entry BarriersBuyer Number
Perfect Competition NoManyNoMany
Monopolistic competition NoManyNoMany
Monopoly YesOneNoMany
Duopoly YesTwoyesMany
Oligopoly YesFewNoMany
Monopsony NoManyYesOne
Oligopsony NoManyYesFew

The correct sequence of the market structure from most to least competitive is perfect competition, imperfect competition, oligopoly, and pure monopoly.

The main criteria by which one can distinguish between different market structures are: the number and size of producers and consumers in the market, the type of goods and services being traded, and the degree to which information can flow freely.

See also

Related Research Articles

Microeconomics branch of economics that studies the behavior of individual households and firms in making decisions on the allocation of limited resources

Microeconomics is a branch of economics that studies the behaviour of individuals and firms in making decisions regarding the allocation of scarce resources and the interactions among these individuals and firms.

In economics, specifically general equilibrium theory, a perfect market is defined by several idealizing conditions, collectively called perfect competition. In theoretical models where conditions of perfect competition hold, it has been theoretically demonstrated that a market will reach an equilibrium in which the quantity supplied for every product or service, including labor, equals the quantity demanded at the current price. This equilibrium would be a Pareto optimum.

In economic theory, imperfect competition is a type of market structure showing some but not all features of competitive markets.

In economics, internationalization is the process of increasing involvement of enterprises in international markets, although there is no agreed definition of internationalization. There are several internationalization theories which try to explain why there are international activities.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to industrial organization:

In economics a monopoly is a firm that lacks any viable competition, and is the sole producer of the industry's product. In a normal competitive situation, no firm can charge a price that is significantly higher than the Marginal (Economic) cost of producing the product. If any firm doing business within a competitive situation tries to raise prices significantly higher than the Marginal cost of producing the product, it will lose all of its customers to either other existing firms that charge lower prices, or to a new firm that will find it profitable to use a lower price to take customers away from the firm charging the higher price. But since the monopoly firm does not have to worry about losing customers to competitors, it can set a Monopoly price that is significantly higher than its marginal cost, allowing it to have an economic profit that is significantly higher than the normal profit that is typically found in a perfectly competitive industry. The high economic profit obtained by a monopoly firm is referred to as monopoly profit.

In economics and particularly in industrial organization, market power is the ability of a firm to profitably raise the market price of a good or service over marginal cost. In perfectly competitive markets, market participants have no market power. A firm with total market power can raise prices without losing any customers to competitors. Market participants that have market power are therefore sometimes referred to as "price makers" or "price setters", while those without are sometimes called "price takers". Significant market power occurs when prices exceed marginal cost and long run average cost, so the firm makes economic profit.

Market (economics) Mechanisms whereby supply and demand confront each other and deals are made, involving places, processes and institutions in which exchanges occur.

A market is one of the many varieties of systems, institutions, procedures, social relations and infrastructures whereby parties engage in exchange. While parties may exchange goods and services by barter, most markets rely on sellers offering their goods or services in exchange for money from buyers. It can be said that a market is the process by which the prices of goods and services are established. Markets facilitate trade and enable the distribution and resource allocation in a society. Markets allow any trade-able item to be evaluated and priced. A market emerges more or less spontaneously or may be constructed deliberately by human interaction in order to enable the exchange of rights of services and goods. Markets generally supplant gift economies and are often held in place through rules and customs, such as a booth fee, competitive pricing, and source of goods for sale.

Competition (economics) concept in economics

In economics, competition is a condition where different economic firms seek to obtain a share of a limited good by varying the elements of the marketing mix: price, product, promotion and place. In classical economic thought, competition causes commercial firms to develop new products, services and technologies, which would give consumers greater selection and better products. The greater selection typically causes lower prices for the products, compared to what the price would be if there was no competition (monopoly) or little competition (oligopoly).

Edward Chamberlin American economist

Edward Hastings Chamberlin was an American economist. He was born in La Conner, Washington, and died in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

In neoclassical economics, a market distortion is any event in which a market reaches a market clearing price for an item that is substantially different from the price that a market would achieve while operating under conditions of perfect competition and state enforcement of legal contracts and the ownership of private property. A distortion is "any departure from the ideal of perfect competition that therefore interferes with economic agents maximizing social welfare when they maximize their own". A proportional wage-income tax, for instance, is distortionary, whereas a lump-sum tax is not. In a competitive equilibrium, a proportional wage income tax discourages work.

Monopolistic competition models are used under the rubric of imperfect competition in International Economics. This model is a derivative of the monopolistic competition model that is part of basic economics. Here it is tailored to international trade.

In economics, profit in the accounting sense of the excess of revenue over cost is the sum of two components: normal profit and economic profit. All understanding of profit should be broken down into three aspects: the size of profit, the portion of the total income, and the rate of profit. Normal profit is the profit that is necessary to just cover the opportunity costs of an owner-manager or of a firm's investors. In the absence of this profit, these parties would withdraw their time and funds from the firm and use them to better advantage elsewhere. In contrast, economic profit, sometimes called excess profit, is profit in excess of what is required to cover the opportunity costs.

Outline of economics Overview of and topical guide to economics

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to economics:

In microeconomics, the Bertrand–Edgeworth model of price-setting oligopoly looks at what happens when there is a homogeneous product where there is a limit to the output of firms which they are willing and able to sell at a particular price. This differs from the Bertrand competition model where it is assumed that firms are willing and able to meet all demand. The limit to output can be considered as a physical capacity constraint which is the same at all prices, or to vary with price under other assumptions.

Microeconomics is the study of the behaviour of individuals and small impacting organisations in making decisions on the allocation of limited resources. The modern field of microeconomics arose as an effort of neoclassical economics school of thought to put economic ideas into mathematical mode.


  1. "AP Economics Review: 4 Market Structures". 2016-09-10.
  2. Body of Knowledge on Infrastructure Regulation “Market Structure: Introduction.”